Overview: In Nightwing #108, Piratewing and The Hold sail towards the underground pirate city, where treachery awaits!
Title: Nightwing #108
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Wes Abbott
Main Cover: Bruno Redondo
Variant Covers: Jamal Campbell, Dan Mora, Mike Deodata Jr,
Release Date: November 21st, 2023
Backup Story: “Odd Hours” part 3 of 3
Writer: Michael Conrad
Artist: Serg Acuna
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Wes Abbott
This comic book review contains spoilers
A secret murderer is hiding among Captain Bea’s ship and plans an attack late into the night. Luckily, both Bea and Nightwing (Dick Grayson) were anticipating such an ambush and hold him for information. While the crew sails towards the Hold’s secret headquarters, Dick and Bea discuss the events of their lives since Dick regained his lost memories. It’s revealed that all of Dick’s public accomplishments in reinventing Bludhaven were made far easier with Bea’s secret help. Angry to have never heard from Dick again, Bea argues that his noble gesture to stay away for her protection was pointless since she’s a part of The Hold. Dick points out that she kept that part of her life secret from him, and the two stalemate for the moment.
Upon arriving at an underground city, Bea – joined by Nightwing and her right-hand man Lucas – make their way to the center of the island called The Crow’s Nest. The entire time, Dick feels eyes on them, and his suspicions are immediately warranted when Lucas is shot dead the moment he opens the door. The gunman is Bea’s half-brother Dirk, who reveals that he sent out the information leaving their late father vulnerable to criminal attacks, including Tony Zucco and Heartless. Nightwing evens the odds by dropping gas pellets and takes on Dirk’s men while Bea chases after her brother. However, Dirk gets the drop on her and impales her in the abdomen with his sword. Just as Nightwing arrives too late, Dirk kicks Bea off a cliff into the seawater below.
In the backup story, Dick and Barbara Gordon are out at the movies when Dick excuses himself to the bathroom, secretly going outside. He’s spotted his would-be kidnapper and leads him out into the alley. The man who’s been following him for several nights is revealed to be Hatch Marlin – a crook for hire formerly responsible for the Underground Criminal Railroad way back in Detective Comics #154 (back in 1949!). Batman and Robin put him and his whole operation out of business years ago, but Marlin has since taken on crook-for-hire jobs, which include going after Dick Grayson. Despite years of martial arts training, Marlin is no match for Dick, who neatly leaves him tied up for the police. Unfortunately, Dick is prevented from returning to the movie without his ticket. Barbara comes out and the two go home, where they join Steph, Cass and Jason in watching a Dracula movie.
The Pirate storyline is shaping up to be one of the better written arcs in Taylor’s tenure. While it’s nothing super-grand, it is carrying more interest and personal conflict than his issues have well since before Nightwing #100. Dick and Bea have believable tension, without it feeling terribly forced, and an even better revelation was the fact that Dick’s work in Bludhaven was being carried along by Bea the entire time. This makes so much sense, as his do-gooder approach towards things in a city as broken as Bludhaven made the storyline feel somewhat unserious at the time. Part of me wishes we’d seen Bea in the background or given hints or clues about this, as it really is a dropped plotpoint at random, but the fact of it makes for a stronger overall narrative. Once this is done, I’d love to see if Dick’s work in Bludhaven complicates or grows more difficult.
Some of the pirate culture bandied about feels a bit too tropey. Last issue, I was concerned that because Bea is now this pirate king, she’d be speaking and acting in a way unrecognizable from how we knew her before. A little bit of that is present here, although it’s mostly with all of the pirates. Yelling things like “Traitor!” and bowing (even though they throw a lampshade on how weird that is) takes me out a little bit, but it’s not the worst thing. And if you’ve been following my reviews throughout the Tom Taylor era, you’ll know that I always appreciate tangible stakes in his issues as they’re often times sparsely applied. I’m sure Bea will somehow miraculously survive falling from a deadly height, but at least Lucas is dead. Having her evil half-brother try to kill them immediately was refreshing, and although Bea may survive she should at the very least be put out of commission for a while – which would lead to consequences for Bludhaven. And I like Bea okay, I’ve nothing against her, but Bludhaven should carry a real threat with its reputation. These crooks and criminals who’ve been around for years and years should act accordingly and not play nice just because Nightwing’s there.
On that thought however, I like how Dick’s skills have been presented in this arc. Last time we saw him think his way through a couple of fights, and here his sixth sense picks up that they’re walking into a trap before the others. More of this is needed. Showing off the skills and experience as well as how Dick’s fish-out-of-water presence gives him a better perspective is a great way of keeping Nightwing a top-level hero without it being too much. And with Bea gravely injured and potentially dead, we’re positioned to see him in a stronger role now that he’s on the backfoot.
The backup stories have been fun, and I appreciate Batgirls writer Michael Conrad having Dick be with other members of the Bat-family, even if I wanted more Steph and Cass. With this final part though, pulling Hatch Marlin from Detective Comics #154 is a CRAZY deep cut. I’ve not even read that issue! I really enjoy when writers do that, as it keeps the history of the characters generally valuable even if Pre-Crisis isn’t strictly the continuity DC often goes by. It reminds me of a Batman reborn era-issue where they brought back the Getaway Genius for a small story. It’s also nice to see references to the Golden Age Dynamic Duo where it wasn’t just Bruce Wayne berating Dick to show how the two of them are so different, this is an actual classic Batman and Robin adventure that came back well into Dick’s adulthood. For that alone, I really enjoyed this finale.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by pre-ordering this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.